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The RJs: The West Midlands and Wales

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Imogen Crump Imogen Crump | 09:03 UK time, Monday, 11 April 2011

The West Midlands - Phil Mackie

Phil Mackie reporting after England won The Ashes

Tell us a bit about yourself

I'm Phil Mackie, and I've worked for 5 live since 1998. Initially I covered the West of England based in Bristol, but since 2004 I have reported from the West Midlands based in Birmingham.

Sometimes I pop up on our sister networks, BBC Radios 1, 2 and 4, and have been known to grace the nation's TV screens, though usually as a last resort, when no one else is around.

Which area/s do you cover?
The West Midlands patch includes Staffordshire, Shropshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire - plus the West Midlands conurbation which includes Birmingham and the Black Country and stretches from Telford to Coventry. Because I'm the nearest reporter I have also appeared in mid-Wales, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Swindon and Bristol.

I've also reported from 17 countries around the world - including the United States, Pakistan and France.

Tell us a bit about your patch
There are parts of Herefordshire and Shropshire that are utterly idyllic, picture-postcard rural England. Then there's the Black Country which is still the home of manufacturing, as well as the home of best beer in the country.

There's Soho Road in Birmingham, where Indian and Afro-Caribbean cultures come together. Then there's the sports-mad Potteries, beautiful Warwickshire, and my home county of Worcestershire, which naturally I have a great affinity with. I live about three miles from my great-great-great-great-great grandfather Robert Mackie's house, which is either very nice or very sad, I haven't decided which.

Biggest story/scoop you've had in your patch?
Most recently I was the first reporter ever allowed inside any CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) - the one based in the West Midlands. It was quite a big story and one that had taken years to negotiate.

I've reported on the police cuts, council cuts, the growth of illegal cannabis factories, Birmingham's gangs, as well as knife and gun crime.

One of the biggest stories I reported on was the floods of 2007. I live in the middle of the worst hit area, and was working for four days with virtually no sleep. It's my job.

Listen to Phil's report from inside the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit.

Why does this picture represent your patch?

The front of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

This is Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, which is mostly free to visit (there is a charge for some exhibitions) and one of my favourite spots in the region's capital. It sums up the West Midlands for a number of reasons:

1. It's an example of the confidence that came from the great growth in the 19th and 20th centuries built on manufacturing success.

2. Some people can associate Birmingham and the urban West Midlands with grimness and post-industrial decline. That's far from the truth and here's an example.

The two posters in the picture are also significant. One's for an exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite art and the Birmingham school was very famous in the 19th century. The gallery is also home of my favourite painting - The Last of England by Ford Madox Brown. The other poster is for the Staffordshire Hoard, the Anglo-Saxon gold that was found last year. It's speculated to be treasure of one of the Kings of Mercia. The kingdom covered most of West and East Midlands.

What do you like most about your patch?
The sheer variety. It's very busy. Even when there aren't big local stories, almost anything that's happening nationally can easily be reflected here. Politically the West Midlands is crucial to every kind of election. It's got great sporting teams from the Premier League in football, to county cricket and athletics. Sadly doesn't have a Premiership Rugby team at the moment because my beloved Worcester Warriors were relegated last season.

It's a great place to live. It's relatively cheap and it's very cheerful

Scariest broadcasting moment?
The car I was driving was attacked during the Lozells riots in 2005. I hit the accelerator as baseball bats began to rain down and got out of there as fast as I could. But one of my colleagues was stabbed in the head.

Then there was the hair-raising flight into Bagram in Afghanistan in November 2001. As we corkscrewed in to land to avoid ground-to-air rocket fire, you could see the burned out MIGs on the runway, and the bullet-ridden control tower. When we landed we had to bribe the Northern Alliance gunmen who appeared to be in command. It was nearly dark and I needed a lift. Luckily a passing ABC news team gave me one and eventually I made my way to the BBC house in Kabul - with a large bomb crater outside - just before curfew.

Favourite service station and why?
I try to avoid motorway service stations because they charge way too much for petrol and coffee - the two things that keep me going. Instead I tend to head for the retail parks on the edge of towns, where there's usually a supermarket, a coffee shop and free wi-fi. There's always free parking and plenty of it, so if I need to put my satellite dish on the roof of the car for broadcasting purposes, it's very handy too. There's a well-known burger restaurant at J2 of the M5 at Oldbury which I stop at often.

Wales - Mark Hutchings

A photo of 5 live reporter Mark Hutchings on a misty peak

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am the Cardiff-based 5 live reporter. Born and bred in Pontypool in the heyday of the Pontypool Front Row ("Up and under 'ere we go etc..." - for anyone who remembers). Former newspaper, TV and independent radio reporter and I occasionally present for Radio Wales.

Father of two embarrassed teenagers. They speak Welsh fluently but don't realise how much I understand when they're talking about me to their friends. I run half-marathons and sometimes referee junior football matches - have not yet booked my son for answering back.

Tell us a bit about your patch
Wales. It's hugely varied - from the angled, terraced streets of the valleys to the dramatic scenery of Snowdonia. It can take five hours to travel from one corner to the other. A Mastermind specialist subject could be: "Welsh Tractors - how they look from behind. 1990s to the present day".

Biggest story/scoop you've had in your patch?
By far the toughest story to cover was the spate of suicides among teenagers in the Bridgend area. Sensationalist headlines presented one picture, the reality was rather more complex. Sensitivity and accuracy were key.

Why does this picture represent your patch?

The set for the Stryd Fawr (or High Street) in the soap opera village of Cwmderi, as featured on S4C's Pobol y Cwm.

This is the street I can see fom my office window. It's the set for the Stryd Fawr (or High Street) in the soap opera village of Cwmderi, as featured on S4C's Pobol y Cwm.

Attitudes towards bilingualism have changed dramatically since I was in school but issues surrounding the Welsh language remain fertile ground for debate. My speciality is Wenglish as in: "Whose coat's that jacket?" or "Where's that to?"

Most unusual story you've covered?
It has to be Pyjama-Gate. It was the story about a Tesco store in Cardiff that banned customers from wearing pyjamas while shopping. My coverage on 5 live and R4 turned into a (mini) internet phenomenon. One outraged customer told me how she only wore her best PJs while shopping. But the Pyjama Party never quite got political backing.

Listen to Mark's coverage of Pyjama-Gate.

Daftest producer request?
To dress up as a Goth and see if people viewed me differently. I have no doubt if I had I dressed up as a Goth, people would have viewed me very differently. I decided it wouldn't be very scientific and declined.

Unlikely fact about yourself?
I have a Pottery "O" Level (C grade). People will always need pots, though possibly not the ones I could make.

What piece of advice would you give to anyone who wanted to do your job?
Keep your sense of humour, though on occasions you may forget where you put it.

You can follow Mark on Twitter: @markhutchings1


  • Comment number 1.

    Sensible to choose two of the best known and most broadcasted journalists to start your series. Phil Mackie has to be one of the best journalists full stop on 5Live. Was it written before he went on the North African venture? He should be rightly proud of many of his reports, and immediately I saw he was featured I remembered the floods and how he soldiered on reporting even though his own family was affected.

    Top man.

  • Comment number 2.

    Good start Imogen.

    Looking forward to East Anglia, Scotland, East Midlands, South East, London....

    Can you please answer the question about whether these journalists only service 5Live or if they also serve other stations? I'm interested to understand where their priorities lay.

  • Comment number 3.

    Phil i have heard you present shows on 5live in the past, i quite enjoyed them, are you going to present any shows in the future, or have you been relegated from the subs bench to the reserve team in terms of presenting?


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